Chocolatier Troy Easton, owner of Sublime Chocolate in Allen, is dabbling in something that could put Dallas on the chocolate map: He's tackling the art known as "bean to bar."
Bean to bar has become an increasingly popular concept, part of an overall appreciation for artisanal goods such as sausage-making and third-wave coffee. Bean-to-bar chocolate is made not by melting down someone else's chocolate but by taking cacao beans through a multi-step process that includes roasting and grinding.
"The hope is that I can achieve a purer taste from just using the bean and organic sugar," says Sublime chocolatier Troy Easton.
Easton says that the goal is a purer-tasting chocolate.
"Part of the flavor profile of chocolate is created when you ferment the beans," he says. "And then refining or conching – depending on how long you do it and at what temperature, you have an opportunity to create more flavors by doing some of those steps yourself.
"The hope is that I can achieve a purer taste from just using the bean and organic sugar, with none of the vanilla or soy lecithin that gets added to some chocolate."
At Sublime, he's been making his bonbons and truffles using chocolate from a supplier, but he says he'd like to get to a point where he can replace it all with chocolate he makes himself.
Part of what pushed him forward was the success he enjoyed on his early efforts. "I wondered, 'Can I really do this?' But it was good," he says.
For now, he's making five pounds at a time. He has a small refiner, and he roasts his beans on perforated pans in a convection oven. The process has submerged him into a new world of chocolate minutiae.
"Scott Moore, founder of Tejas Chocolate in Houston, uses wood or coal to roast," Easton says. "You can use an electric coffee roaster, or you can do it in the oven.
"Some people think that isn't great, but that's what I have right now. It's getting the beans to the right temperature and roasting them for a certain amount of time. It's been fun, and it makes me appreciate chocolate again too."
As for beans, he says he buys small batches from a distributor in Oregon.
"The thing I've discovered about bean importers is that they either partner with or own plantations and only import one type of bean," he says. "A guy from Venezuela might have three types of beans, but they're all from Venezuela. Another person is doing Brazil and another Madagascar.
Easton will debut his bean-to-bar chocolate at the Dallas Chocolate Conference taking place in Addison on October 26.